Thursday, January 29, 2009

from myspace....churchill, canada 2006

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
a few words about the polar bear trek of last year....Current mood: content
every year for the past 5 years i've planned some sort of fun adventure. i just open it up to interested people and see who shows up. this year was the chilkoot trail. last year i decided to go broke and see some polar bears in churchill, canada. it seemed that each time i opened my newspaper there was another article about the demise of the polar bears due to global warming. the bears of churchill are some of the most accessible, but also some of the most at risk. they collect on the hudson bay each year and await for the ice to come in so they can go out to feed. that ice has been leaving earlier in the year and coming in later over the past many years. this means these bears don't get as much bulk on them. time will tell for these beautiful bears, but i wanted to see them before their numbers got lower. planning these trips began as a fun way to pump up the cabin fever of winters up here. several friends were interested and eventually we got a crew together. i wanted to stay at the tundra buggy lodge so we would be able to see the most bears and not waste time traveling from churchill to where the bears were. the lodge can hold up to 38 people and is very similar to living on a train for several days. there were two sleeping cars so accomadations were tight. in the days we could take the more portable buggies out and stay elevated from the bears.
we flew into winnepeg, manitoba,canada to stay overnight. it's a 2 hour flight from there north to churchill. we were so excited and i was so scared we'd get up there and the ice would have already come in and we'd see no bears. they leave as soon as the ice comes in. the tour starts with a bus tour of churchill.....we spent far too much time on this and on hanging out in churchill itself...but it was a tour package so no way out of that. they drove us past the polar bear compound where the bears that become problems in the town of churchill go. they have bear alert systems in place for when bears wander in there. they also have many warning signs posted to keep you from meeting a polar bear accidently. i mostly hung out with my friend maria and sue who went along. it was chilly there, but truthfully, last year in november in anchorage we never got over 10 degree's and it was a bit warmer in churchill than in anchorage. they are about 700 miles south of us. oh...did i mention the polar bear paw prints on the glass doors at the airport...
by the time we headed out to the buggys to settle in, it was getting dark. those buggy's really bounce and rattle us. we had all our gear on board and i'm sure there was thousands of dollars of camera gear. we spotted our first polar bears from the mother ship(tundra buggy lodge) and of course took many pictures for fear we'd never see another bear. we didn't need to worry. we could see them from our little windows on our bunks. i recall watching a bear in the distance get closer and closer and then walked right under the buggy at my window. the wheels are about 5 feet tall so the bears can wander underneath the buggy's. there was one john per sleeping car and man did those things reek. i told them, they should make a shitter car and take that out of the sleeping car area. when i woke the next morning i looked out my window to see a bear asleep in the snow below me.
we saw dozens of bears and most of them hung around the mother ship all day. we had loaded on to our portable buggy, but really just circled the mother ship as the bears were to active. they were sparring all day. 2 sets. they'd rest, spar, rest, spar. my pictures came out grey as polar bears on snow are really tough to photograph...seperates the amateur from the professional. we did have some professionals on board, including my aquaintance, lisa who i'd met viewing grizzley bears...
the bears were amazing to watch. you could scan the horizon and count a dozen bears out there. loved seeing the mothers and cubs. the mom's were so thin. they really dont' eat much at all while raising the yearlings. the bears would dig out seaweed and munch on that. for me, their feet were just mesmorizing. they were just to huge. they look so gentle and you realize if you were down there with them they could just whack ya and eat you. you are a meal to them. i recall a biologist telling us of studying seals up in the alaskan arctic. he said he was taken out by natives and they kept taking turns jumping up on the snow machines to scan the horizon. he asked what they were doing...they looked at him like he was crazy and said, "you think you are the only one looking for seals out here"...he said he then began scanning the horizon as well. polar bears can smell something several miles away. they didn't look scarey at all as they played and lounged about.
one night i woke up to look out my window and see the northern lights dancing away. i've seen the northern lights many times, but we roused everyone else as we knew they would want to see them. the 38 people on board were from all over. there were 6 from mexico, 2 germans, 1 japanese girl, several from was really fun. everyone was really nice and you had alot of time to get to know each other. actually the only one who bugged me was a boyfriend of a girl i work with who went. that is another tale though, not worth wasting time on.
we also saw some artic hares and fox. the fox also have snowshoe feet to make travel on the ice easier.
we spent another night in winnepeg en route home. i went to a hockey game with sue and maria. i love hockey. it was a minor league game. the crowd was pretty subdued. i'd heard canadian crowds are a bit more tame than the american games. mostly, i think it's that they dont' have a person or pa system belting out stuff to get people involved...anyway. it is always fun for me to get to some sort of professional sporting event when i'm out of being my favorite one to attend.
my trip home was pretty eventful...memorable and somewhat life changing. it was a 5 hour plane ride from denver to anchorage. we watched some dumb movie and were supposed to land at 9:30pm in anchorage. i heard alot of thuds...seemed like more than the usual for the landing gear coming down, but we continued to land like normal...then we took off again. we flew in silence further and further away from anchorage. my heart knew something was wrong. then the pilot came on, he said with a trembling voice, "we have a major problem with out landing gear, listen to your flight attendants and prepare for evacuation". he then said we were going to fly over the airport again so they could assess the landing gear ( and i knew to get emergency equipment on the runway and dump whatever fuel we had left) then we were going to just make an attempt at landing. we circled for what seemed like forever. the plane was quiet. the girls in my row and i talked quietly, introduced each other and honestly, i think we were just too scared to even be able to react. i was comforted by the fact that for some strange reason i'd left a note behind in the event my plane crashed...something i'd never done. i had written some names of friends to call who would help find homes for my pets....i really wanted to see the dogs again to come home and be with them. i didn't want to die. as we began to come into land we assumed crash positions and held hands, i repeated this metta prayer i have memorized over and over to just take the focus off what was coming. we didn't know if we had no landing gear, one wheel or just that they weren't locked in place. i thought having one wheel down would be the just go over possible scenarios. when it came time to land the flight attendants screamed ," NOW, BRACE, BRACE, BRACE, DON'T MOVE, BRACE, BRACE, BRACE, DON'T MOVE...." the entire time the plane was coming down. i msut say it was the gentlest landing i've ever had. no braking, i think for fear the wheels would buckle. the pilot did a great job, he just slowed the plane down as much as he could before we landed and glided to a stop. there were fire engines and ambulances all over the runway, but we were okay. i was shaking for hours and the next day i was in full anxiety attack mode all day...i think i had just been to scared to be scared on the plane and the next day my body could release all the stress. we didn't land until 11:30 or later, not sure and we had been on time. my friend said the moniters said, "on time", then our flight just disappeared. i called him when we were safely on the ground and he told other people waiting for our flight around him what was going on. i recall i felt super hungry and he asked if i wanted to stop and eat...i told him no thanks i wanted nothing to prevent the wine i was going to drink from effecting me. we drove right past a big old moose in the middle of my street as we were both too shook up to notice. that is my polar bear tale....
on a sort of funny we were about to crash land i remembered i had gum in my mouth and all i could think was "oh my god, i'll survive the crash and choke on the gum. in a panic i took it out and smashed it between the pages of the plastic, what to do in an emergency thing. also they told us to put our heads on our knees the best position to crash in according to them...the seats are too close together to be able to get in this position...personally, i figured it was the "best" position as you would break your neck immediately.
as for today...took rio and blossom for thier usual rio walk in the morning in the bog by my place then my friend kelly called and we took blossom and her dog mandy for another walk...they ran, we walked. i think the toilet is works, could use some tweaking. i finished reading my book, "water for elephants" which was a really great read. not sure what i'll read next. it's great to be alive and i am one who loves to stop and smell the roses as it were and i'm really happy my life isn't so crazy i don't have time to enjoy all the sweet little things of this world.
metta prayer...
may all beings be happy, content, and fulfilled,
may all beings be healed and whole,
may all have whatever they want and need,
may all be protected from harm and free from fear,
may all beings have inner peace and ease,
may all be awakened, liberated and free,
may there be peace in our world and throughout the entire universe...

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